Hollands epitomises Blues steel

Danny Hollands battles with James Spencer. Picture: Joe Pepler
Danny Hollands battles with James Spencer. Picture: Joe Pepler

Paul Cook paid tribute to Danny Hollands on his man-of-the-match return to the side.

Hollands impressed as he came back into the starting XI in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Cambridge United.

It was the midfielder’s first appearance since breaking his leg at Ipswich at the start of January.

Hollands shone with his dogged work as he stood strong against the physical test presented by the U’s.

That epitomised what was good about Pompey’s performance after they struggled in similar circumstances against Barnet.

Cook felt the 30-year-old’s presence has been missed.

He said: ‘Danny was excellent. We had loads of good players right through the team.

‘Danny’s Danny. It’s funny how when you are on these runs you miss players.

‘Ben Close has been excellent. It’s not a reflection on him. When we have our full squad we’re a good team. It’s about balance.

‘We were physically strong and only conceded a late goal.

‘A team who have been doing very well lately didn’t have too many goal attempts.’

Pompey started quickly with tension high after falling to their lowest league position of the season going into the game.

They impetus appeared to be ebbing away, however, before Marc McNulty broke the deadlock four minutes before the break.

Cook’s side then carved out a number of opportunities in the second half with Adam Webster doubling the advantage after 62 minutes.

Pompey looked comfortable until Matt Clarke was sent on with three minutes remaining in a switch to three central defenders.

Cambridge then scored from a free-kick in the 90th minute – leading to five nervy minutes of stoppage time.

Cook explained the reasons for the defensive change and explained his preference would have been for an attacking switch.

He said: ‘I never saw the goal coming in a million years. They hadn’t created a chance.

‘If we’d have more forward-thinking players on the bench we’d have gone for goals.

‘The reality was we didn’t have that. Conor (Chaplin) hasn’t played for a long time, McNulty, Hollands and Naismith haven’t played.

‘Ben Tollitt is still a novice. We were just worried we didn’t have the offensive power going forward.

‘We didn’t really have the forward player to bring on to help us win three or four nil.

‘So, as those lads were getting tired, we thought it was more beneficial to see the game out. Typically, we couldn’t do it – but it was an important three points.’

– JORDAN CROSS